There is no question that fishing is a popular recreational activity, especially in Wisconsin. However, fishing can lead to some visits to the doctor’s office or emergency room. I want to share some stories and advice on how to avoid catching a ride to the emergency room.
Some potential dangers of fishing have nothing to do with the act of fishing but are due to the fact it is done outdoors on the water. Water reflects sun light and sitting in a boat in the sun can cause some dandy sun burns. Protective clothing and sunscreen is advisable. Most boats are not equipped with toilets. Trying to lean over the edge of the boat to answer Mother Nature’s call can result in an unexpected encounter in the water. They say that most drowning accidents occur in people who have their pants unzipped. Include a urinal and life jackets on the list of your boat equipment.
Having a fishing partner is safer (and more fun) than fishing alone. Cell phones are a safety device that can summon help if an engine breaks down or help is needed. A bonus: cell phones can record your catch.
Fish hooks are sharp and have barbs that make them difficult to remove from the skin if they become imbedded. I have removed hooks from just about every part of the body. There are ways to reduce the chance of getting hooked. Putting hooks away after use rather than lying them down will reduce many of the accidents that happen. Stepping or sitting on a hook is an unpleasant experience. Make sure you look where the hook and your partner are when casting. When taking a fish off the hook, be prepared for a sudden flop. Grasp the fish carefully to avoid sharp fins and bones and secure it before trying to unhook it. A tool like a pair of pliers can limit the chance of getting the hook in the hand when unhooking the fish. If you take your pet fishing, remember that they can be curious and easily hooked.
People often come to the doctor to have a fish hook removed. There are several techniques, but when able, I prefer the string technique. This works well when there is just one barb imbedded (does not work when two of the three hooks of a treble hook are imbedded) and there is someone to help, since it requires two hands. Kits can be purchased at a sporting goods store or fish line can be used. The line, or string, is wrapped (I prefer at least twice) around the hook right at the level of the skin. Then the eye of the hook is pressed down onto the skin to angle the barb correctly and a quick jerk directly opposite the direction of the eye will remove it. Many videos online show how it is done. Otherwise, the barb can be pushed up through the skin and cut or smashed and then removed. Tetanus immunization should be updated with this type of injury.
Once I saw a man who reported stepping on a jumping catfish that was trying to escape him while fishing in Florida. I saw him well after the incident and he told me he thought a fish bone was in his foot. Sure enough, I pulled about a one-inch piece of bone out of his foot. Another man came to the office with his knuckles infected and the skin had been scraped off. He told me he caught a giant catfish in the Fox River and he stuck his hands in its mouth to carry it. The fish was flipping its tail and the rough surface of its mouth took the skin right off the backs of his hands. Also, I have had to remove bones stuck in mouths and throats from eating fish. A relative of mine once unhooked a catfish and went to toss it in the water but it hit his grandson’s hand and the barb stuck to his hand and broke off in his hand.
Fishing can be fun and entertaining. Take precautions to be safe and stay healthy my friends.
By: P. Michael Shattuck, M.D. – Community Health Network Family Physician